Located in the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Silver Pagoda is a beautiful symbol of the Khmer’s religiosity and artistry. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Silver Pagoda is truly a stunning site that tourists should not miss. The structure is made of marble and concrete, its floors are laden with silver tiles, and it showcases an emerald Buddha and a 90-kg solid gold Buddha. Inside are precious artifacts and jewels.
Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of this slowly yet steadily rising Southeast Asian country. Cambodians have practiced Buddhism since the 5th century, at least, and could be as old as the 3rd Century according to some sources. Today, about 96% of the total population are Buddhists, and the silver Pagoda is one of their most precious religious structures. In fact, it was spared and left untouched by the Khmer Rouge.
Other religions in the country are Hinduism, Islam, tribal religions, and Christianity. Roman Catholicism arrived in 1555 but did not thrive. Today, there are only about 20,000 Catholics, but there are also Protestants and Baptists.
The Silver Pagoda is near the Royal Palace and another important national landmark along Sisowath Quay, the most walked and visited promenade in the capital city. It is difficult to miss the pagoda; all tuk-tuk drivers know where it is. Formerly named Wat Ubosoth Ratanaram, the Silver Pagoda’s official Khmer name is Preah Viear Preah Keo Morakot or Wat Preah Keo for short.
Built in 1907 at the Royal Palace workshop, the gold Buddha is adorned with 9,584 diamonds. This life-sized icon depicts a Maitreya Buddha, which means it is a Buddha that has achieved complete enlightenment and shall soon appear on Earth. It is dressed in royal regalia that was commissioned by King Sisowath, who ruled Cambodia from 1904 to his death in 1927. Meanwhile, the tiny Emerald Buddha made from 17th Century Baccarat crystal is a not as majestic as the gold Buddha but is as beautiful and as significant to its devotees.
The original pagoda was just a wooden building. It was rebuilt in 1962 during King Nordom Sihanouk’s reign using concrete and Italian marble. It was the official temple of the King of Cambodia. Sihanouk then inlaid the pagoda with about 5,000 silver tiles: each tile was said to weigh a kilo. Hence, the pagoda became known as the Silver Pagoda. Today, however, only a small area of the tiled floor may be viewed by the public.
When in Phnom Penh, it is definitely a must to swing by the Silver Pagoda along Sisowath Quay. Even a view from outside is spectacular. It is open from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM and again from 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM every day. Entry fee is only US$3 per person, plus camera fee of US$2 and video fee of US$5, although tourists may only take a photo or video of the exhibition areas. Tourists and visitors must always keep in mind that it is considered disrespectful to be wearing clothes that show the knees and shoulders.